Developer Insights

How IoT Initiatives are Changing Product Development

Aaron Perillat | June 8, 2017

As more businesses develop IoT applications, it’s changing the way physical products are being developed. One of the areas most impacted by this shift is requirements management, and its ripple effects can be felt at all levels of an organization.

Success with IoT product development is contingent on companies rethinking the way they handle requirements management. In our recent webinar, “Mapping IoT Product Requirements,” guest speaker Nate Fleming, a Forrester Research analyst, outlined some of the best practices in requirements management for product development based on dozens of interviews with IoT companies. The below is a summary of the research Nate presented on our webinar based on the Forrester report, “The Internet Of Things Propels Product Development Into The Digital Era.”

Flexibility with scope

For those businesses beginning to develop IoT applications, a fair amount of flexibility with requirements is needed. That’s because, often, the IoT product you set out to make isn’t the one that hits the market. Customer research, technological limitations, opportunities, and collaboration amongst engineers from different disciplines can all wind up altering the final state of your IoT product. And influence from those variable elements need to be accounted for in the original product’s scope.

Simple collaboration

Since teams of engineers working on connected products usually have disparate areas of expertise — like mechanical, electrical, and software — it’s critical they’re all speaking the same language when working together. Simplification tactics, such as avoiding insider jargon and keeping things at a high level, can help strengthen IoT requirements tracking. Also, storing software and hardware requirements for various stakeholders in an easily-accessible space is a good idea. That way, everyone working on the project can fully grasp the obstacles and priorities facing each team member.

Expanded capabilities

Advancing the skill sets of those overseeing IoT product design and development is another critical component. When IoT technology is added to the development mix, for example, a manager who’s used to releasing physical products on an annual schedule, for instance, must adjust to the dynamic nature of continuous software updates. Part of that process will also include gaining the ability to balance things like the changing nature of industry, needs of the business, desires of the customers, and fluidity of technology and software. One last attribute IoT product managers must master is being highly collaborative. That’s because their role will require synthesizing feedback from different members of the organization, placing it into requirements if needed, and effectively communicating that information to staff, or vice versa.

Powerful tools

Using the right tools to manage IoT requirements will also make a big difference in the final product. Legacy programs, for instance, are usually serviceable for basic data management but limited in direct use to just a handful of stakeholders. Alternately, relying on simple document software for complex collaboration can result in miscommunication headaches, limited collaborative functionality, and general rampant disorganization. Alternately, apps are great for ordinary tasks and messaging, but they’re not built to track dependencies or run change impact analysis. Hybrid models also fall short, since no combination of tools has been expressly crafted for IoT product design and development.

Instead, consider investing in a single platform that understands the needs of IoT developers and what they’re trying to accomplish. A quality product development platform will transform your processes by facilitating multi-functional team alignment, assisting with requirements management, maintaining traceability evidence, and more. This will go a long way in improving the quality of both engineers’ lives and the products they create.

Smarter products

One final process to consider with IoT product development is collecting usage data and employing it to inform future iterations. Since connected products utilize embedded software, you can receive data on usage in the wild. Integrating that information into your product requirements can lead to amazing opportunities. And once you begin designing and fine-tuning products based on how your users are interacting with them, you may begin to wonder how you ever did it otherwise.

Given the array of changes IoT brings to product development, some of these practices will be easier to implement than others. Unfortunately, time is a precious resource for companies entering the IoT space. While you shouldn’t rush your organization into connected technologies, don’t count on your competitors conceding ground to make their integrations either. If you don’t act quickly on IoT, you risk losing the edge.

Want a closer look at IoT product development? Check out our on-demand webinar, “Mapping IoT Product Requirements.”